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The Intertidal Zone This lesson contains four activities with discussion questions related to a video. These parts may be used individually or together, depending on the needs and time constraints of your group. Note: You can access and view additional video clips for this lesson in the Teacher resources section of the American Field Guide website: ( Vocabulary: Littoral zone – In coastal environments and biomes, the littoral zone extends from the high water mark, which is rarely inundated, to shoreline areas that are permanently submerged. It includes the intertidal zone and is often used to mean the same as the intertidal zone. Abiotic – Non-­‐living chemical and physical factors in the environment. Biotic – Of, pertaining to, or produced by life or living organisms. Adaptation – The process whereby a population becomes better suited to its habitat. This process takes place over many generations, and is one of the basic phenomena of biology. Background: The Intertidal Zone presents a unique set of challenges for the organisms that live there. Extreme fluctuations in moisture level, heat, salinity, and sunlight make it a habitat suitable for only a few highly conditioned species. Tidepools are marked by conditions that change dramatically over a very small area, also going from only occasionally wet to usually submerged in a matter of a few feet. The intertidal zone is thus known for its great diversity and has always been fascinating to children who love to collect shells and see the sea creatures who live there. Activities in this lesson are designed to enable students to investigate the creatures of intertidal zones and how they’ve adapted to their conditions. Outcomes: Students will … 1. Develop an understanding of reproduction and heredity: the characteristics of an organism can be described as a combination of traits. Some traits are inherited and others result from interactions with the environment. 2. Develop an understanding of regulation and behavior: all organisms must be able to obtain and use resources, grow, reproduce, and maintain stable internal conditions while living in a constantly changing external environment. Regulation of an organism’s internal environment involves sensing the external environment and changing physiological activities to keep conditions within a range to survive. 3. Learn that an organism’s behavior evolves through adaptation to its environment. How a species moves, obtains food, reproduces, and responds to danger is based in the natural history of that species. Activity: Part 1 Explorers Share their Observations 1. Students are to imagine that they’re 18th Century scientific explorers on an expedition to an uncharted part of the world. While landing at remote beaches they observe organisms that nobody from their society has ever seen before. They should write brief descriptions to illustrate the organisms to people at home. 2. Explain that scientists have to rely on descriptive skills when identifying organisms. Especially before popular use of photography, biologists had to describe the features of organisms to distinguish between species. Today, careful description still is a foundation of scientific research. 3. Split the group into two halves, with each side turning their backs to the other. Each person should have a pencil and a piece of paper. Hand a different shell to people, and explain that they are to verbally describe that shell to the person behind them in a way that the person can then draw it. They cannot use the name of the organism (like clam) or scientific terms (e.g. muscle scar). Encourage them to include measurements and specific data about the size and shape so that the person drawing can make annotations. Have a number of rulers available so that they can measure their shells if they choose to. One could have a contest to see whose drawing most closely resembles the original object. Materials: A variety of shells (starfish, mussels, gastropods, limpets, etc.) with enough for one per student. Rulers. Objectives: Students will … 1. Practice description skills using marine organisms. 2. Learn the difficulty of painting a verbal picture. 3. Will develop an appreciation for the descriptive skills necessary for a scientist. Activity: Part 2 Conditions in the Littoral Zone Watch the Tidepools video from the link below, made available by California Marine Protected Areas: Ask students to pay attention to any information regarding conditions in the rocky intertidal zone and to adaptations organisms have for survival. After watching, make a list of factors that might influence your life if you live in a shoreline area. These might include: salinity, heat, moisture, predation, finding food, sunlight, staying put, etc. Encourage some discussion: given the conditions present in each zone, how do students think organisms might survive. They should address the different factors that they listed after watching the video above. The objective of this exercise is for students to brainstorm and to be creative in thinking about adaptations. Objectives: Students will … 1. Use discussion to generate ideas about how organisms adapt to the environment. 2. Learn specific adaptations for the Rocky Intertidal Zone. Activity: Part 3 Adapting to Challenge Introduce the ideas of challenge, advantage and adaptation to challenge. Guide students through these three topics on this Seaworld Educational link:­‐world/ecosystems/info-­‐books/tide-­‐pools/intertidal-­‐ecology.htm Now discuss factors that organisms living in the intertidal zone have to contend with. Some abiotic factors include changes in temperature, salinity, light, moisture, and wave action. Biotic factors include finding food, avoiding predation, and mating. List these factors on the board. Discuss some of the adaptations referred to and then divide students into groups of two or three. Provide each group with the shells of one or two marine organisms and ask them to think about the factors they have learned about and listed during the discussion. What special features do they think their particular organism might have had to enable it to survive in the intertidal zone? Students could share their results with the class. Ask them to choose one organism or one unique adaptation to explain to the group. Additional resource: Objectives: Students will … 1. Consider the various abiotic influences on organisms living at the edge of the ocean. 2. Examine organisms to determine adaptations for survival. 3. Learn that organisms use different strategies for survival. Activity Part 4: Hold On to Your Home! Adaptations that are necessary for life on a sandy beach are different from those necessary for life on a rocky coastline. In both areas, one of the great challenges is to hold on, but the Technique will differ greatly. Now heading out to the intertidal zone, in this activity, students will experiment with observe organisms in the sand, on and between rocks, and in the water to determine and distinguish between various methods useful for “holding on” in each environment. Objectives: Students will … 1. Compare rocky wiith sandy substrates to determine the difficulties of living in each. 2. Observe and consider how adaptations enable organisms to survive. 3. Learn that organisms have adaptations to protect them from a range of influences. Background: On a sandy coast, the substrate is constantly shifting while on a rocky coast it is not. However, on a sandy coast, the sand is able to absorb some of the energy of the waves, but the rocks cannot. How an organism maintains its location will depend on where it lives. Those that can stick will do better in rocky areas, while things that can dig will do better in sandy areas. Storm waves can wash away the sand or will increase the energy present on the rocks, uncovering or dislodging many organisms. This is often reflected by the increase in shells at the beach after high waters. And even the crabs found in many of our rocky areas, although they don’t stick or dig, are ideally suited to crawling into crevices where they lodge themselves out of the way of crashing waves, and in such a position as to avoid being pulled out by receding waters. Just try and retrieve one to find out how well they can hide! And although an organism can avoid being washed away, it still has to deal with other influences. For example, if students bury an organism, how does it avoid predation? It won’t be able to move quickly but the fact that it is buried gives it some protection. It might get food by sticking out a tongue-­‐type organ that allows it to filter the water. Worksheet below … Worksheet: Imagine you are a small, ‘shelly’ creature at the coast. You live in a place called the intertidal or littoral zone, the area between the lowest low tide and the highest high tide. As an intertidal creature, what are some challenges you might have to deal with? Make a list here: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Coastlines generally can be divided into two types: sandy and rocky. In this activity, you are going to experiment with each type to determine some adaptations that can help you survive there. Your challenge in this activity is to observe the ways that creatures stay put. 1. List four organisms, two in the sand and two in the rocks. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 2. Watch what happens to the sandy creatures when a wave comes in. Write your observations in the space provided on the worksheet. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 3. Consider and note down how it appears to you that the organism avoids being washed away. In particular, you should observe how the differently shaped organisms use different methods to stay put. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 4. What basic differences did you observe between sandy and rocky organisms? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 5. Di some organisms appear better equipped to survive on a rocky coast than on a sandy coast? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Adapted from PBS American Field Guide